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The Duality of Male and Female
Jason: Ramji, I seem to be stuck on an idea that chit and ananda are related to the source/idea of male and female. Of all the knowledge that Vedanta easily expounds, the concept of male and female seems to be one that is conveniently avoided. As I continue my study I am beginning to question some of my preconceived notions. Forgive me if I’ve asked this before but I don’t think I have. Does scripture tell us where the beginning idea of male and female come from?
I realize all life requires matter and energy plus awareness to function. My thought, and maybe I am wrong, is that awareness is the cause, so it cannot be male or female. Male and female must come FROM awareness. If awareness is the organizing principle, what then is its agent of function with regard to gender? I realize it pushes people’s buttons to identify gender with a particular guna, so I understand the reluctance to teach it if so. But there must be some mention of gender and its organizing factor.
Ramji: Remember, Vedanta is only a means of knowledge for the self. It is not intended to be used for knowledge of the details of the apparent reality. But the answer is simple; in terms of advanced life forms, i.e. people, it is the fundamental duality. It is so fundamental that the the secondary literature of the Vedic tradition – the Puranas – use it as one of the basic symbols of the creation – the union of spirit and matter. Maya, not awareness, is the cause. Awareness is the “uncaused” cause. Awareness doesn’t organize. It has no intention There is no world from its point of view. It has no function. It is the illuminator of maya’s functions. It is completely uninvolved.
Jason: My understanding is that sat-chit-ananda are somehow related to the gunas, as in sat (sattva), chit (rajas), ananda (tamas). Again, please correct me if I’m wrong.
Ramji: You’re wrong. Sat-chit-ananda is the self, awareness. It is trigunatita, free of the gunas. The gunas arise out of maya, not the self. Both genders are made of sattva, rajas and tamas. The gunas are a subtler principle. They pervade everything in the creation.
Jason: My original assumption was that female must originate from ananda, and male must have its origin in chit.
James: Well, chit/awareness/self is often symbolized by maleness, and maya/matter is often symbolized by femaleness, but there is no actual connection, only a similarity.
Jason: But I have begun to question this arrangement due to the ceremonies and the symbolism we utilize. It seems to suggest the opposite arrangement. There is always the thought that the symbolism is wrong, in which case I would trust Vedanta’s interpretation.
James: Religions are based on mystic experience, which is sometimes reliable and sometimes not. You can’t interpret Vedanta. Well, you can but it will not be Vedanta if you do. Vedanta can only be taught. It is beyond experience. However, when it has been assimilated, experience confirms it. You always need to question the source of any knowledge. Human experience is unreliable.
Jason: There seems to be a thought growing in my mind that there is some kind of reversal taking place, as in a mirror image, but I could just be imagining all that.
James: Maya, the great creator spirit, reverses the relationship between the self and the world, awareness and the material forms that arise in it. It is called viparaya. See Inquiry into Existence (Panchadasi). This is why people, who are under the spell of maya, think that the self is an object and that the jiva is the subject, and subsequently try to experience the self. The self is the only subject. It never becomes an object. But maya makes it seem as it it is.
Jason: Regardless, the simplification of my lifestyle is in full swing. Reduction of vasanas is my main immediate goal. I wish I would have found Vedanta prior to getting married and starting a family, but such is life. For now, I accept my responsibility and question ego’s endless list of desires/fears as they arise. I’m avoiding many traps I would have easily fallen into previously. There truly is no other path that compares to inquiry. I am eternally grateful.
James: Yes, indeed. I was lucky. I saw through the “women and gold” trap when I was twenty-five and then Vedanta came, after psychedelia and an itinerant lifestyle. I didn’t have much to get rid of – just a few concepts and beliefs. In any case, you’re on the right path.
Jason: Okay, so chit and maya are only symbolized by male and female. That explains my confusion. So depending on how we choose to characterize the symbol we get an interpretation as male or female, BUT they (chit/maya) do not actually create gender, correct??
James: Maya superimposes duality on the self (chit), which has no gender. Duality means that the one reality appears as mutually opposing forces, the yin and yang, man and woman, for instance, owing to the maya principle. The yin is the feminine principle, and the yang is the masculine principle. That they are non-different is symbolized by the black yin dot in the white yang and the white yang dot in the black yin. Every man has feminine tendencies, every woman masculine tendencies.
Jason: Could it be that gender is just a function of maya that compels free-thinking jivas to be attracted to each other and sign up for a 20-year sentence of raising children?? (Something no rational being would ever consider, LOL.)
James: Yes, indeed, because that’s what happens.
Jason: It seems obvious how these types of characterizations lend themselves to justifications for abuse by religious people. I think I am guilty of continuing to think of awareness as the Creator instead of maya due to the fact that maya arises out of awareness.
James: Guilty as charged! If awareness creates, it will become contaminated by its creation. If you create a child, you become bound to the child. If you identify with the idea of husband, you “create” a wife and become attached to her. “Create” means that you take ownership of her. As the owner you usurp the power of authorship from maya. Maya is a very difficult concept because it is not the same as awareness, nor is it different. It takes a subtle mind to understand it. Maya and awareness are not mutually exclusive categories. They are one, but not the same.